Archive for the 'reading' Category

November
11th 2014
For More Educational Freedom, I’ll Give Up (Figurative) Ed School Explosions

Posted under education schools & Innovation and Reform & reading & Research & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Explosions are cool effects to watch in the world of make-believe — action movies and video games, though my parents pretty tightly limit my exposure even to those. That may be in part because mom and dad want to send the message that blowing things up in real life is generally a bad idea with lots of potentially bad consequences. Somebody could get hurt.

So it’s probably not surprising that I experienced a curious reaction to Rick Hess’s latest blog piece, titled “A Better Path than ‘Blowing Up’ Schools of Education.” By schools of education, of course we’re talking about the colleges that train K-12 classroom teachers and other educators.

Let me start off by saying that among those who want to see parents more empowered and students have access to more great teachers, education schools remain perhaps the least talked about but widely recognized institution that stands as an obstacle to reform. As Hess acknowledges, sheer numbers dictate their influence: Continue Reading »

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October
24th 2014
Buckle Up for the Ride, Colorado: The Testing Issue Isn’t Going Away Soon

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & reading & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Teachers

Tests in schools, tests in schools. Why do I have a strange sort of feeling this issue isn’t riding off quietly into the sunset any time soon? First, we’ve got the entire hot mess known as Common Core (or maybe we should just follow Governor Hickenlooper’s advice and rename it “Colorado Core”?) and the new regime of PARCC assessments that go with it.

Underneath all that, though, are all the competing concerns and interests. What do we want tests to do? Is it about improving instruction and directly affecting student learning? Or are they primarily useful tools to help measure and compare how different schools and educators are doing? As I’ve heard it said many times, “what gets measured gets done.” So you can’t just throw out all the tests. But which ones do we need, and how much is too much?

As you can see, magical policy solutions aren’t hiding just beneath the surface. Some leaders on the Colorado State Board of Education have tried to find a way to give local schools and districts more testing flexibility, while preserving key features of accountability. But then the grumpy old U.S. Department of Education mothership has all but completely squashed that idea.

Then we have the legislatively-appointed Standards and Assessments Task Force. On Monday, this 15-member group met and narrowed down the areas of concern to oh, at least eight. These are items to study and make recommendations about. Looks like a big task to tackle by the early 2015 deadline. Then yesterday the Task Force set up a listening session in Colorado Springs, reports the Gazette. Among the many concerns highlighted: Continue Reading »

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October
23rd 2014
Building a Well-Rounded Education: Field Trips and Hamlet with Dr. Jay Greene

Posted under reading & Research & writing

Sometimes my mom pokes fun at my dad for being a little portly. His response is always the same: “I’m just a well-rounded individual.” But while my dad’s goal (every year) is to make himself narrower around the middle, that may be exactly the opposite of what we want to see in our children’s education.

Jay Greene, already one of my favorite academics due to his work on school choice, has most recently taken to arguing for wider ranging liberal (no, not that kind of liberal) education in American schools. He begins a recent post on the topic thusly:

Some people seem determined to narrow education.  I’ve been trying to make the case for a well-rounded, liberal education, but that idea has less support than I realized.  In their effort to maximize math and reading test scores, schools have sometimes narrowed their focus at the expense of the arts and humanities.

That narrowing focus often cuts programs like art, music, drama, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Continue Reading »

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September
12th 2014
Colorado More Leader than Laggard: A Report Card Eddie Can (Mostly) Enjoy

Posted under Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Journalism & math & Public Charter Schools & reading & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know I have a fondness for report cards. A certain kind, anyway. Just as long as it’s not my report card going home to my parents about my performance. Seriously, though, I like to talk about report cards related to education policy — some more helpful or accurate or comprehensive than others.

Today it’s a piece called Leaders and Laggards, put out by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the help of a couple American Enterprise scholars, that ranks states on a big slate of K-12 education measures.

The study assigns each state a letter grade for each of 11 major categories, and in a couple of cases compares them to the last release in 2007 (Colorado’s grades listed in parentheses): Continue Reading »

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August
15th 2014
Liberty Common Shatters ACT Test Record; State TCAPs Less Inspiring

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Yesterday brought a big data dump from the Colorado Department of Education, and it’s nothing that is going to get the rest of the nation ooh-ing and aah-ing about where we’re headed. When aggregate scores for 3rd to 10th graders in all three subject areas dip half a point, clearly far more is getting measured than improved. Still, there’s plenty that’s hidden when you take the statewide view.

So leave it to little old me to ferret out and compile a few of the key local story lines that deserve attention, reflection, and in a few cases, imitation. Speaking of which, none rises to the top more than the Liberty Common High School‘s record-breaking ACT score — besting the 2010 mark of 27.78 with an eye-popping 28.63.

Did I say “record-breaking”? I should have said “shattering” — almost, but not quite, Beamonesque. Congrats to Liberty Common and principal Bob Schaffer for raising the bar! When I wished them “best of success” nearly two years ago after my Education Policy Center friends concluded their visit, I had no idea they would so thoroughly heed my admonition!

Here are some other local highlights of yesterday’s test score data dump that caught my attention: Continue Reading »

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July
22nd 2014
Can’t Get Enough Productivity: Charter Schools Doing More with Less

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & math & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & School Finance

If “productivity” is really a dirty word for education, as some critics would like us to believe, maybe that explains why I feel the overwhelming urge to write about it for the second time in less than a week. A kind of “forbidden fruit” thing, you know. Or maybe the connection just was too easy to make during these hot and lazy, hazy days of summer.

Last Friday I took a look at the productivity of Colorado school districts, as measured in a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). A couple of this blog’s favorite topics — Douglas County and Falcon 49 — emerged with flying colors.

So right on cue, here comes a first-of-its-kind analysis, comparing the productivity of public charter schools to other public schools in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The University of Arkansas’s “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools” made an across-the-board finding that shouldn’t exactly startle anyone who pays attention. Not only is charter productivity higher in every state: Continue Reading »

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June
5th 2014
New ACE Study Opens Mind on Comparing Public, Private Schools

Posted under Denver & High School & math & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & Sciences & Tax Credits & Urban Schools

Time flies when you’re young and enjoying early summertime fun. Why, it was only last week I told you all about the bad smell left by a new book attacking private schools with weak and questionable data. Thanks, Patrick Wolf and Education Next.

However, in writing that post, I may have made a mistake. It’s not easy for a stubborn little edublogger to admit he should change his mind, but a new development this week might just do it. I wrote the following sentence: “It’s extraordinarily challenging to make broad, facile comparisons between the two sectors of education.”

It may not be terribly challenging at all to make simplistic comparisons. What’s more, it appears eminently possible to make meaningful comparisons between public and private schools on a number of academic data points. Yesterday, the local nonprofit group ACE Scholarships released a pilot analysis showing how scholarship students in 6 of their 150 partner schools fare compared with charter and other public school options available. Continue Reading »

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May
29th 2014
Past Jeffco Superintendent Hires Shine Light on McMinimee Process

Posted under Grades and Standards & Journalism & math & Parents & reading & School Board & Suburban Schools

I was sitting on grandpa’s lap Tuesday night when mom let out an exasperated sigh. Unusually, it had nothing to do with me failing to clean up after dinner or leaving my Legos on the living room floor. No, as a good active and concerned mom would do, she was watching the Tweets coming out of the Jeffco school board meeting.

I asked my mom why she looked kind of sad. Apparently, the board meeting had become very contentious — some would say downright nasty — over the hiring of a Jeffco dad, Dan McMinimee, to be the next superintendent. It ended up turning into a brief but important history lesson.

Grandpa reminded us that it has been a long time since Jeffco had a superintendent search. Most parents of students in classes today weren’t around during the previous hiring processes. It was exactly 12 years ago this month when the school board last hired someone for the top position in the district: Cindy Stevenson.

Grandpa helped dig out an ancient article from a former newspaper called the Rocky Mountain News — dated May 23, 2002, with the headline “SURPRISE PICK WAS MADE IN ONLY A WEEK – JEFFCO SCHOOLS’ ATTORNEY: QUICK ACTION WAS LEGAL.” He read us the whole piece, including this part of reporter Nancy Mitchell’s story: Continue Reading »

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May
8th 2014
Newly Reported Test Scores Bring (Mostly) Disappointing News

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & math & reading & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

The good news from yesterday is summed up in two words: Sine Die. Near as I can tell, that’s Latin for “The legislature gets out of town, productive everyday citizens breathe a sigh of relief.” (But maybe I need to enroll in one of Colorado’s fine classical schools to find out for sure.)

The not-so-good news comes from a pair of test results that leave me sadly shaking my head. First, Colorado’s critical 3rd grade reading TCAP scores took a slight dip this year. We’re talking about 71.5 percent passing the proficiency bar in reading, as opposed to 73 percent last year.

The Denver Post story mentions one metro district that has bucked the trend, with Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin shining the spotlight on Westminster: Continue Reading »

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May
1st 2014
Outperforming International Peers: A Delicious Piece of Dougco PISA News

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & math & reading & Research & Sciences & Suburban Schools

Nearly a year ago I pointed readers to an enlightening report from a group called America Achieves. The report showed how, based on international tests, even our nation’s middle-class students were falling behind their socioeconomic peers in many other countries. The findings reminded us why the bold innovators in Douglas County have been working to raise the bar.

But how do Dougco students themselves compare with their international counterparts? We have a fresh sample that offers a clear glimpse. Yesterday the district released 2012 PISA results for 15-year-olds in the two participating Dougco high schools: Continue Reading »

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